Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Things People Say

1. "Oh, when your child does " whatever it is "your life will be over!"
2. "Enjoy these years, because they're gone too quickly!"
3. "Get your sleep while you can, because once they're born, you won't sleep!"
4. " >insert random parenting critique without feeling the need to listen to any judgments or rationalizations< "


I'm a big Douglas Adams fan. I think everybody should read him, particularly the first three "Hitchhiker's Guide" books. It's best for, like, 12-14 year old boys who have an imagination, but I've enjoyed it as an adult. British humor, you know. It can be an acquired taste, but I haven't many people who actively dislike the Adams stuff.

One bit from Hitchhiker's goes something like this: (no quotes, because it's a remembrance of something I haven't read in a few years) Ford eventually changed his theory to "[humans] keep talking because, if they close their mouths, their brains start working," but changed that because it was too cynical.

I think that people say those kind of obvious, patronizing (because all indicate a subtle tang of "I've done this, and better than you"), entirely meaningless platitudes because of the misguided feeling that they need to say something unique and memorable to the new parents / young parents / expecting parents. They feel like they need to be different from everybody else. Their advice is, after all, more meaningful than everybody else's advice.

Hey, folks, if you're one of these people, then stop it. Harsh words: nobody cares. Your unsolicited advice is not heeded or appreciated by anybody that hears it. We all know that having babies is difficult - or, if we don't know, then nothing you say is going to make it different. What do you expect: "We're going to lose sleep? Well, I better leave work and get my butt back in bed, so that I can magically carry hours of sleep over to the first few weeks of my child's life."

I just read a couple of awesome blog posts about similar topics, and "Fatherhood III" hit a chord with me. He posts about the incredibly low expectations heaped upon fathers who are primary caretakers of children. It's true; if I take the kids outside and they're dirty, or smelly, or naked, or whatever, then 1) kudos to me for being a "good dad" and taking them outside, and 2) points against The Wife as a mother because, if she were a fit mother, the kids wouldn't be in that situation.

Judgment is a tough business, folks. This kind of patronizing (matronizing, actually, if that's a word)and idiotic treatment of parenting only shows a remarkable ignorance of the way the world works. I can hear the thought process: "Wait - that child's caretaker has a penis. He can't care for a child! Penises prevent that!" Actually, they don't. Trust me. I have one, and I'm able to change diapers quickly and efficiently. I'm also better at diagnosing nap and bedtime than my wife is, and she doesn't have a penis. I checked.

The moral of this story: I don't need your parenting advice unless I ask for it. I don't need extra help from you because I'm a guy. I don't need to be congratulated on my parenting skills because I'm a guy. Like Chris Rock said, you don't get congratulations on things you're supposed to do.

Try these instead. It'll go over better and get a better response:
1) "Isn't it fun, having a baby this age who can ________?"
2) "I loved when my kids were ____ years old."
3) " >say nothing at all and restrain the desire to speak< "

Test for Craziness

The Boy at the indoor play area at the Pittsburgh Mills Mall, playing with a balloon on a rubber band:

YouTube Video

Younger Bro climbing the swingset ladder:

YouTube Video

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Birthday morning

"The Boy turns 3 today! Happy birthday, The Boy!"

"No! The Boy is 2! Younger Bro is 1, The Boy is 2, Daddy is 3!"

Sigh. Cute!!!

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Birthday today!

3 years ago, The Wife had just been induced into labor with The Boy. That's a grimly uncomfortable situation. I'm glad I was there for her, but I'm also glad that it was her and not me!

One year ago today, I was at the park in Scotch Plains with The Boy, watching him have some fun. He crawled across a bridge and through a tube, which were two difficult things for him. Now? He still loves the park, and he still loves running across those little arc bridges, and crawling through the tubes in the swingsets. He's not littler than the other kids so much, even though he's still further behind the other kids, physically. He's catching up quickly, though.

It's been a heck of a year, that's for sure. Happy birthday to my little man!

We had a great party today. It was a really nice crowd, with some of my friends, some of The Wife's friends, and some of The Boy's friends attending. He was really happy and excited and bouncy all day today, that's for sure! He had a lot of fun playing with all of the people that attended, both little and big people. The highlights of the day included The Boy blowing out the candles on his own cake, followed by taking a flower off of the cake by hand (encouraged by me, but that's okay); the new truck that Grandpa game him, which makes noises and rattles and drives forward; watching The Boy play with the other kids, including very gentle playing with some of the little babies; eating all of the wonderful food that The Wife and Grandma prepared and made; singing barbershop songs for the party, even if The Boy didn't appreciate it as much as we'd prefer; listening to my father sing with my quartet mates; and seeing how many people fawned over Younger Bro so unconditionally.

You know what the best part is, compared with last year and the year before? WE DON'T HAVE TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL TOMORROW! (knock wood)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cancer Care and Exercise

I just got back from the JCC. My Swimming Month (or two) is going well: at the four-week mark, I've swum full miles in two consecutive workouts. Today, I swam a 400m before taking a break to start, and I swam the last 600m (24 laps) without taking a break. That's a significant step up from Monday's mile, which was 8 sets of 200m laps. I'm down around 7 pounds from the start of the experiment, which has to do with the increased aerobic activity and the fact that we're eating out a WHOLE less, AND the fact that I've basically stopped drinking diet sodas and coffee. (Not entirely accurate; I allow myself one thing per day, whether it's a soda or a cup of coffee. Today was a Starbucks half-caf.) I'm proud of that, and I'm at my best shape right now since... probably before Younger Bro was born, if not earlier.

Another thing to know, as we delve into the topic of exercising while taking care of a pediatric cancer patient, is that I'm an intensely emotional guy. I wear my emotions on my sleeve and have a difficult time restraining them from interfering with other aspects of my life. In high school, I was talking to a buddy of mine about dealing with the frustration of normal life and school and music and stuff. He told me that, when he gets frustrated, he would hit the floor and bang out a couple hundred push-ups. The adrenaline spike of the stress gave his muscles the strength to go beyond their normal limits. I tried his advice the next time I got frustrated; I went from being able to do 40 pushups (my normal limit) to doing about 10. This is a pattern that repeats itself still: if I'm intensely emotional about something, I won't even bother to go to the gym. I know my workouts won't last.

So, here's the issue with being a pediatric cancer parent: there's just no way to exercise on a regular basis. It's a matter of schedule: with another infant at home, my schedule was complex. In the morning, be relieved at the hospital by Mommy and Younger Bro, go to work. After work, run home as soon as possible and do any housework that I need to do (pay bills, etc), including errands. Head back to the hospital and send home Mommy and baby. While at the hospital, it's not possible for me to slip away for an hour plus to exercise. The Boy is too young to leave alone, and his care required a lot of time sitting with him while he sleeps and rests, playing with him while he's in bed or on the playmat, and walking back and forth to the playroom.

Normal life activities is getting up, walking back and forth to the kitchen, the bedroom, the bathroom, etc. In-hospital life means far, far less activity. So, instead of burning normal-life calories, you're burning about 1/10 of that. Combine the inactivity with lack of focused exercising, and it's a dangerous combination.

So, what to do? I found something by the Turbulence Training guys called "10 minute workouts." They are workouts that can be done with no equipment, and they will kick your butt. These can be done in a hospital room fairly easily - just don't forget to NOT touch your face with the hands that touch the ground. I also bought a combination push-up / pull-up bar that's supposed to fit in doorways fairly easily. That would help a lot. Bodyweight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups (don't like them at all), and others (just google "bodyweight exercises" and you'll get a nice list) help a lot. Aerobic exercises are more difficult: jumping jacks, running in place, and similar things are no fun at all and are difficult to do in a small hospital room.

I'd love to be able to say that I used these techniques to keep in shape. I didn't. I went about six months (a little longer, actually) with no exercise at all. Finally, after six months of work, I'm just about at the strength and conditioning place that I was at last summer. I know that it's important to keep exercising going during times of great stress; it's supposed to be a stress reducer and a lifestyle improver. It is. I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

I speculate that, with older kids, it's probably more possible. I wouldn't leave The Boy alone in the hospital until he was old and mature enough to take responsibility for his care (...and even then), at least in the sense of being able to check his medicines and dosages for medical errors. But, it wouldn't be a big deal to exercise at home while waiting for / staying with a sibling that's old enough to sit by himself for an hour, after school. Multiple siblings? I'm blank. You got me there. Good luck.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another "Normal" Day

Yesterday and today seem to be that odd thing known as "normal" days, for unemployed parents of two toddlers (well, one toddler and one infant-almost-toddler). There was some excitement, some excitement that wasn't as much fun as the other excitement, some downtime, lots of boring time, and a little bit of sleep. None of it was extraordinary, yet it was all extraordinary.

Sigh. That didn't come out the way I wanted it. Re-reading that, it's a hack-y attempt at a "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" kind of vibe. I'll go with it, mostly because I'm not entirely certain that there's a better way for me to express this confusing concept of "normalcy."

"Who is that?" The Boy asked me, at about 7:10 yesterday morning. "I don't know!" I responded. "It's Younger Bro!" The Boy enthusiastically informed me. "Let's get him!" So, we tramped into their bedroom (The Boy joined us around 2:30AM, when his brother woke him up). The two children played with each other for a few minutes, one in crib and one on the floor. I changed both children and let them play on the ground until Mommy woke up. Sometimes, I'd let her sleep; yesterday morning, she was starting the wakeup process when The Boy and I got up. We all tramped downstairs for breakfast. ("I'm hungry! Want to go downstairs and eat breakfast!") Mommy cooked breakfast while I tucked the boys in their chairs, got drinks, and made some coffee. After breakfast, the boys played with each other in the sun room and kitchen, I did the dishes, and Mommy showered and dressed. The Boy took himself to the potty to make poo, which necessitated lots of jelly beans, a fuss, and a new pair of socks with super heroes on them. The Boy and I rested for a spell, while he watched the Mickey Mouse "Prince and the Pauper" twice. The Boy went with Mommy to Trader Joe's to replenish provisions, and Younger Bro and I played for a while.

After Younger Bro went down for his nap, I went to the JCC and worked out. I've been swimming for a couple of weeks; first time I've used swimming as a workout since the mid-90's. Yesterday, I did a mile in the pool for the first time since 1996. After my workout, we had lunch together, then Mommy left for an interview to teach a Hebrew school - an after-school kind of thing. She got back quickly, and we all played for a little while. Nap time came, and the three of them took a nice, long nap. I did some barbershop work. When they woke, it was dinner time, then Mommy left for rehearsal. Grandpa and I took the boys to the park for an hour, because they hadn't had a lot of run-around time. It was fun! The Boy is all over the place at the park, while Younger Bro likes the playset designed for babies & small toddlers.

We got home around 8:10, and I put YB down for bed. Changed him, sang a couple of songs, read him his book, then tucked him in gently. He smiled at me, turned over in bed, and stuck his fingers in his mouth. I changed The Boy, turned on his movie, and YB then started screaming in the other room. After ten minutes (giving him time to settle down, which he sometimes needs), he came in and watched the end of the movie with us. During that time, he chewed on two remotes, my earplugs (ewww), and a few other things he shouldn't have. Eventually, around 9:00, he settled down and actually started to sleep.

The Boy, on the other hand, did not. He was exhausted but awake. Long story short, he read his books with me (reading two out loud to me, which was cuter than heck, and astonishing as to exactly how much he remembered), some songs, a conversation about his day, a trip to the potty, put on his night diaper, tucked him in, sat down next to him... and the drama started. Mommy came home a half hour later and helped rescue me, thankfully; the night still ended with a huge tantrum by The Boy and some hysterics by Younger Bro. Sigh. The Boy still joined us soon after Woot o'clock in the morning, but that's fine.

This morning, we were all up again together, around 7:15. Breakfast happened the same way, as did the post-breakfast cleaning. The Boy took himself to the potty again to make poo, and we all had nice playing afterwards. Now, Mommy ran to Giant Eagle, The Boy went with Grandma to meet her oncologist, and Younger Bro is sleeping. I'm going to finish this mammoth length blog post, then do some barbershop work. I have to look up 74 e-mail addresses, and I'm late doing it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another good sign(s)

Dr. Graves said, "If I didn't know it was The Boy, I wouldn't have thought it was him." He's grown so much and acts so well! Dr. Graves joked that he didn't even need to examine him because of how healthy and bouncy he looked.

Blood counts came back, and they were normal. 11.4 hemoglobin, 364,000 platelets, ANC of 6600... Immunizations start six months off treatment. That's November, for those keeping score at home.

The Boy also took himself to the potty to poop this morning. It was glorious.

Still unemployed, though.

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Monday, August 23, 2010


Chest xray looked great. Ultrasound looked unchanged from last time. Test results were normal. w00t!

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Location:45th St,Pittsburgh,United States

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Hard Way

When one is hairless, putting stickers on the head is fun and entertaining. When The Boy started growing hair, he discovered that pulling stickers out of your hair was not as much fun as it looks. So, he adapts. Smart kid.

Still loves stickers, though he's a lot more careful with them.

Note: he has now moved them to the lower pocket of my cargo shorts. Fun!

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Wow. Definitely my son.

Just got my first snarky "No." when I tried to make a joke from The Boy. Who said sarcasm isn't hereditary?

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lazy Day Redux

Today illustrates why it can be difficult to plan activities with little kids at home.

Younger Bro and I were up at 7:30 this morning. We went downstairs and played for a while. The Boy joined us at 8:15, and we had breakfast. Mommy came down at 8:45. We made tentative plans to go to the spray park after breakfast.

YB went down for his nap around 9:45, which is around the normal time. His nap was massive and lasted until 12:30. The Boy started showing his tiredness around then, so Mommy took the baby to the grocery store. The Boy lasted about 20 minutes before he was asleep.

Good news was that the Yanks played this afternoon, an 11-5 laugher. So, I've sat in this chair for a couple of hours, with a little boy curled up tight on my chest, watching baseball and aggravating my iPhone thumbs.

But, our day is not really... well... planable right now. Once he wakes up, I have some work to do before a quartet rehearsal tonight for a friend's memorial service tomorrow morning. And, it's almost dinner time...

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Location:Reynolds St,Pittsburgh,United States

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Still Cute

The Boy just got out of bed and walked into the hallway. "I'm tired, Daddy! I'm tired!" "Yes, sweetheart, I see that. Let's go back to bed now, okay? You want Daddy to carry you?" "Yes. Daddy carry you."

There are good nights and bad nights. Two nights ago? Great! Asleep at 11, slept through until 8, with a brief wakeup by Younger Bro around 3, and The Boy joined us at 6:30. Last night? Not so great. Whack-a-Mole all night long. Tonight? Not sure yet, but the trend is not headed in the right direction.

He's up and in bed with me right now. Sigh. It's not that I don't enjoy his company. It's just that it's frustrating trying to get him to sleep enough. Tomorrow, we're using our free tickets to Kennywood, and it'd be nice if we all got enough sleep.

No job yet. Concern is sliding towards panic.

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Location:S Dallas Ave,Pittsburgh,United States

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Death of a TiVo

We've experienced a crushing loss this weekend, one that has left our souls bereft of joy and happiness. Our lives are emptier than they were just a short time ago, and we're not entirely sure what to do. I'm a little bit lost and undecided, struggling to find a new direction.

Our upstairs TiVo died on Friday.

Well, technically, it's not ours, but Uncle Curt's TiVo. As in, the lifetime guarantee is registered to him. You might scoff, but this is a big deal. TiVo has entirely ruined my normal television habits, and I'm not sure how to go about it.

Here's why: if we sit down to watch a television show, we use the TiVo. It automatically records shows for us. The upstairs TiVo recorded a rotating number of Scrubs and Simpsons episodes for us. For the kids, it recorded (and kept up to five at a time, deleting the oldest) Sesame Street, Batman, Super Hero Squad, Electric Company, Wordworld, and two or three other kids' shows. We honestly didn't use it much - almost exclusively for watching Simpsons and Scrubs, and for the occasional Sesame Street episode. That's it. But, we watched the kids' shows just often enough for it to be a positive thing. Barney is wonderful at times.

So, what do we do, now? We can have no TiVo, and cut down our television upstairs (positives: more reading, more social interaction. negatives: boredom, pregnancy). We can have no TiVo and just use the iPod (thanks, Ogans!) and DVDs (positives: variety of shows. Negatives: can't change DVDs or iPod shows with a remote, and one has to own or acquire the shows to watch, AND there's no convenient way to store DVDs in a room that routinely has small children). We can get out Nana's TiVo, which is currently gathering dust in the closet and use it as a dummy DVR, or shell out $100 for a year's service.

The problems with using the dummy DVR? I don't actually know what number the channels are out here, like, at all, other than SyFy, which is 127. Don't ask how I know that. And, I think Comedy Central is in the low 50s, like 53 or 54. 54, now that I think of it. I'm not certain what the major network channels are, and I know that I don't know the cable channels other than the aforementioned ones. I simply don't watch live television anymore, other than the one show per week that I'm fixated on. The last one was Lost, and that's done. Now? Don't know.

The other issue, which is probably more annoying, is that the hardware isn't good for it. The channels are still set for New Jersey and won't reset to Pittsburgh without a new service agreement. The clock isn't really set for the correct time, and it runs fast. By the time I broke down and bought a year's service agreement (which ended on The Wife's birthday this year), I had to set the clock 1 hour and 45 minutes faster to get it to record on time - AND I had to provide an extra 15-20 minutes of recording time at the end because the clock would gradually get faster during the week.

Sigh. It's possible to do it, but - as a friend said - it's kludgey. I'm not entirely sure that it's worth it. They will sell as a high definition box and a lifetime subscription to that (the new TiVo Premiere) for $450 ($200 for the service and $250 for the box), but I don't think that an unemployed family living in Grandparent's house should be spending $450 on a new toy that they don't need (...that isn't an iPad).

On a lesser note, I'm also kind of distressed about Comcast's digital cable signal. I bought a great program from TiVo called "TiVo To-Go" that allows me to tranfer files from the machine to my computer and convert them for my iPod. This was amazing, and I used it for YEARS to send my shows to my machine so that I could watch them at leisure - usually, when waiting for rehearsals to start, during lunch at work, in one of the those one-hour windows of killing time at work between the end of the school day and the start of a rehearsal, or on a bus ride, or whatever. I didn't upload / download them illegally; I watched them on my iPod, then I deleted them when I was finished. Unfortunately, Comcast sees that as a threat to their business model, and now all digital signals are broadcast with a "copy protect" flag. This means two things: 1) can't transfer them to my computer anymore without serious hackery, and 2) with many of them, if I don't watch the show within a week, it'll delete itself. Which is stupid.

This is why, when we move out, we're NOT getting cable television. Screw them. We don't need it. We'll get Netflix streaming and, maybe, Hulu Plus. Both go through my Playstation 3 in HD and would cost less than $30 per month. We'll watch our shows that way.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Planning Ahead

Today was a blissfully uneventful trip. We had breakfast with Patsy and her daughter today, which was wonderful, and we stopped for a couple of hours at the Crossings Outlet Mall. Other than that, the kids were quite good all the way through the trip. The Boy even managed to convert Younger Bro's invasions of his space into handshakes: "Hi, Younger Bro! How are you?" while he pumps YB's hand up and down.

So, now we start onto the next phase of things. The job hunt has to be ratcheted up a gear, as much as we can. I need to push a little harder at the Pittsburgh thing, and we are both going to begin to explore outside-of-teaching work. I might hunt around for some marching band work, either paid or volunteer, to get my name out there.

I also need to start to rethink the blog. I bought the rights to "www.musicaldaddy.com" and "www.logicalmommy.com", which are my wife's and my blogs. I guess I'd like to ask - what keeps you coming back here? What would you, as a reader, like to see? Would you like to see in-depth reviews of stuff that I use with the kids? More brother-to-brother relationship stories? Reviews of television and movies that they watch? Stories about pediatric cancer research or other kids with cancer? Or, are stories of our life entertaining enough?

(Side note: do I need to shorten up the verbage? The problem is, I like to talk and am a fast typist. This leads to lengthy blog posts, even when going from Blogpress on the iPhone.)

I know that, if my wife is the one that gets the job, I'm going to write the book about The Boy's journey through cancer. I figure that it's going to kind of a practical how-to guide about dealing with the cancer thing: each chapter will start with an observation and suggestion about how to deal with hospital life and with the cancer lifestyle, followed by stories from The Boy's treatment and life that illustrates it. I have a tentative outline of how the book needs to be written in my head, and I think I could get a comprehensive outline done in a couple of weeks.

What do you all think? (Logical Mommy is not excluded from the conversation and should thusly comment on all except my use of the word "thusly".)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Day 5

Just as anticipated, a nice, friend-ful day. We put a lot of miles on the car during this trip; over 700, with around 400 to go tomorrow. It's actually kind of astonishing. I've done all of the driving so far. It's not out of any kind of macho sentiment; it's just what has happened. Below: The Boy in the dollar store entertaining himself.

Being in the car with the boys is usually fun. It's always interesting. For the most part, they sit and talk with us or listen to the music. The Boy frequently will sing along with the music that he likes. Younger Bro likes vocalizing along with us, and he will frequently echo a lip buzz or his "SOOOOOO much!" interval to us. The Boy will make requests as to his preferences in music. Right now, he enjoys the Spiderman song, Monsters Inc soundtrack, and Emperor soundtrack. He will tolerate the Tubby the Tuba audiobooks and parts of the Cars or Toy Story audiobooks. He has an okay tolerance for baseball or barbershop, but he'll ask for his stuff on general principle. He has less tolerance for the mixed playlists that I enjoy.

They both sleep well in the car, The Boy better than YB. YB handles the long stretches as well as a 13-month old can be expected. We travel slowly with many stops for children to run around. We're not in a rush, fortunately.

The kids don't necessarily interact well in the car. The Boy will occasionally talk to YB and less frequently play with him. Their favorite activity is thus: YB reaches over from his seat and touches part of The Boy's car seat. The Boy freaks out and flails his arms and yells for YB to move away. This entertains YB, who keeps it up until The Boy is a crying mess. Mommy holding his hand helps calm him down; he's frustrated because he asks YB with please and everything to leave him alone. I'll move YB's hand away and play goalie while Mommy soothes The Boy.

Rinse, lather, and repeat. A few minutes of peace precedes the next eruption.

The best are the times when The Boy is asleep. YB will reach over and whack him on the head or shoulder, then cackle his evil little laugh. He does that until we stop him, or The Boy turns toward the other side of his seat, or he gets bored. It's hilarious, but we try not to laugh lest we encourage that sort of thing.

Secret of parenting 101: anything you laugh at becomes permanent. It's cute the first time, but annoying and potentially dangerous over time.

Tomorrow: breakfast with Patsy, then a stop at the Crossings outlet mall for some shopping. Dinner in or near Pittsburgh and home. These two pictures are the boys with Uncle B, with whom we ate dinner.

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Location:Taylor Dr,West Caldwell,United States

Day 4

Day four of our trip was actually my birthday - #36, amazingly enough. It was a wonderful day, exactly like it should be: full of fun and friends and family. Breakfast was relatively normal, consisting of cereal and eggs (not together). The boys played for a couple of hours afterward.

Mommy took The Boy to the Valerie Center to visit the nurses and doctors that guided us through the first 18 months of treatment. They were happy to see him and thought that he looked very good. I stayed home with Younger Bro, as we were both feeling lazy and tired. YB went down for a nap quite quickly, and I caught up on some reading.

Uncle B came over around 11. We're having dinner with Aunt L and him tomorrow night, but he came over for a bit yesterday morning to hang out and play with the children. We had lunch, played, and hung out. Finally, Mommy took The Boy upstairs while the rest of us went to Best Buy to get the Kick-Ass movie. (Not for kids.)

After naps resumed, we went down to Uncle P's and Aunt S's house. It was so much fun! They have an above-ground pool, and we spent an hour or so paddling around in there. The Boy sat on a raft and laughed with us while we all played! The only down part? The Boy had a reaction to the chlorine which caused a rash. Oh, well. He's better this morning.

When everyone got home from work, we went to Fuddrucker's for dinner. This is a much cooler Fudds than the one in Pittsburgh, because it has Boylan's sodas and a cool kids play area! The Boy was all over to the play area like white on rice. "Want to play the wheel!" meant sitting at the racing games and spinning the steering wheel. "White and red! Want the colors!" meant playing with the air hockey equipment. He was coaxed up the climbing net by one of his cousins.

Funny bit: we were going to take the kids home and put them to bed following dinner, but The Boy was insistent: "Where's Uncle P?" and "Younger Bro, we are going to Uncle P's house!" It was cute as heck. So, we went back and played a bit.

The kids went to bed without much fanfare or difficulty, and The Wife and I were up a little longer before following the children. Today: more friends, then home tomorrow!

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Location:Taylor Dr,West Caldwell,United States

Friday, August 6, 2010

Help needed...

Can you help identify this song from the little fragment that The Boy is singing? We're not sure what it's supposed to be.

(If it's original material, it is copyright The Boy 2010... 8)


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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Day 3

Today was yet another nice day. After my blog entry of the morning, the boys got up and ate their breakfast. The Boy was exhausted and slept much longer than the rest of us. We then packed our stuff, threw it in the car, checked out, and headed back to the Boardwalk.

At the Boardwalk, we did little. I went to the Dunkin Donuts, then we wandered around in the arcade. Mommy and I played skee-ball, and The Boy played Skee-Toss. He had fun and enjoyed the fact that he won some tickets. We traded in 450 ticket points for a couple of little whistles and a plastic slinky.

We left when the boys both filled their diapers and headed out to Big Lots to kill some time. Then, we went to Wall and visited with our friends D&S. They just moved there from Scotch Plains, and they have a beautiful home. We had a wonderful lunch and swam in their pool. The Boy didn't swim; he dunked himself twice yesterday and was likely still a bit gun-shy. It was wonderful to see our former neighbors again; their girls seemed to really enjoy Younger Bro.

From there, we travelled to Franklin Park to see D&L. We had a nice time hanging with them, and we ate at a very cool little kosher place. They were really nice and bought fun toys for the boys.

Great bit: on the way home, we had to pull into a Parkway rest stop because The Boy had to have his fingernail trimmed. He was freaking out about it, to the point of a detour. Sigh. 2-year olds... His nap on the way home gave him his second wind. We're exhausted and want to go to bed, but he feels like playing. Wonderful.

Easy day tomorrow. Just hanging out.

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Location:Taylor Dr,West Caldwell,United States

Day 2

We had a nice breakfast with my father to start the day off. He's headed out to California to spend a week with my brother's family, so our time was short. The Boy spent all of his non-eating time up in the front of the restaurant, playing with the trucks in the waiting area. I don't blame him; I would as well, if I could get away with it.

Soon enough, Dad left for Cally, and we started the process of heading down south to the shore. Let's see: pack for me; The Wife; Younger Bro; playpen; food (lunch meat, no bread... instant Atkins!); sunscreen; pails and shovels; iPod cords. Got everything? Almost. Left The Boy's clothes at Grandpa's. D'oh!

Two hour car ride, unpack, eat a little, hit the beach. The water was not so interesting to The Boy, although YB found it nice to watch. The two kids really enjoyed playing on the beach, or "the sandbox," as The Boy called it. YB especially enjoyed the taste of beach sand. Yuck.

We played for an hour or two, building small sand structures, sculpting sand letters, burying parts of feet in sand, walking around, and playing Tackle Daddy. It was awesome.

Dinner was at an Italian place near the hotel, and it was unremarkable. Crappy service, good food. We were told about huge portions, so we figured we'd share with the boys. My portion, miracle of miracles, was right around normal. Sigh. Small dinner for Musical Daddy. I made up for it a few hours later, when it was Fried Food Time on the boardwalk:

We walked the boardwalk for a long time, chasing The Boy as he excitedly ran from attraction to attraction, watching every ride and looking at every game. We tried the guess you weight / age guy, and he got The Wife's age and my weight. Sigh. The Boy rode two rides. On both, he flipped out during the pre-ride wait but loved the ride. Go figure.

We also saw one of my former students, whose father was out wedding DJ. It was awesome to see her. She's now teaching autistic children. I'm so proud of her... (Not that I can claim any more influence than friendship, but that's enough!)

Finally, both children slept amazingly well. YB passed out as soon as we got back. The Boy was up for an hour, but all were asleep quickly and stayed asleep. That's the sleep secret: the boardwalk! Who knew?

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Location:Sumner Ave,Seaside Heights,United States

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day 1

Sesame Place was pretty awesome. There's lots of stuff to do, and The Boy is just about old enough to do it. He can't got on any rides by himself, but he can go on almost anything with an adult. Younger Bro is still too little to do much. Still, all of us went on the spinning teacups, the carousel, and in the water areas, and I took The Boy on a few other rides. He didn't want to do the roller coaster, and he doesn't like the rides and climbing stuff that's high up. Round and round is good.

Still, next time, we're going to do the late entry thing at 3. It's 2/3 the price, and 3 hours is about all they can handle. We stayed from opening until after the 2pm parade, and that was about an hour or two too long. We could have saved $75 and had a bit more appropriate of a day by waiting. The teacups were the best, this time, I think.

We still got The Boy a handicap wrist bracelet, although we didn't use it. Better to have and not need. His favorite thing was the plastic duck game: pick up a duck and see the prize you won. He didn't play the game, just liked to play with the ducks in the water.

The car ride back north was an adventure. Younger Bro spent the entire time torturing his brother. Not surprising, but frustrating. We're hoping that The Boy is not going to be such a socially awkward target through school.

We had a nice dinner with my father, and the guys in the Dapper Dans were happy to see us. I was also happy to see them! I miss them a lot, and I'm happy that the chorus is successful. The night was uneventful, thank G-d, for sleepers.

Today: breakfast with Grandpa, then down to the shore.

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Location:Taylor Dr,West Caldwell,United States

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hotel: Success!

The hotel was a success last night, thank G-d. Younger Bro had a bit of a rough time settling into the Pack'n'Play, but he slept a solid five hours once settled. We were all awake from 4 to 5, but that's not bad. The Boy stayed in his bed until that point, and a huge poop woke him at 6.

This picture is of the boys wrestling at the Sideling Hill rest area, where we had dinner.

Mom took YB to breakfast at 7:30, and we had little muffins and something vaguely approximating coffee. I mean, it was nice of them to make a big batch on Thursday morning and save it for us over the weekend, but they needn't have bothered. I'm sure there is some driveway tar we can drink instead.

The plan: leave within the hour for Sesame Place, stay until the boys crash around 3, then head up to Grandpa's house. Dapper Dans for Daddy tonight.

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Location:Elwood Ave,Bristol,United States

Monday, August 2, 2010

Cancer Sucks.

Eve's mom, Christy, keeps a blog about her beautiful young daughter's fight against Wilms Tumor. She posted a distressingly on-point rant against the "This is the RIGHT kind of cancer to have!" people. The sad part is, that sentence was our shield against the first round of treatment that The Boy had. We stopped saying that, more or less, by the second round of surgery. Our doctors, in particular, said that quite often during the first months of his treatment.

I understand the rationale, the psychology behind this. Survival rates for type I and II favorable histology Wilms patients is quite good, among the highest rates of any type of pediatric cancer. This is certainly better than leukemia or brain cancer; it's just not good. When "survival rates" and "5-year survival rates" come into a conversation, it's not good, no matter the circumstances.

Still... cancer sucks.

Things I Found In Or Near Bed

Things I Found In Or Near Bed when I got in tonight:

Elmo shirt
TiVo remote
Thomas the tank engine Lego - wheels only
One baby-sized blue sock
One piece, red chalk
One piece, red paper, with chalk lines (none red)
Comic books (in fairness, these are mine)
Lego blocks x 6
Large plastic coins that go with a piggy bank toy
Foam piece from a puzzle book that is downstairs

Yes, children run your life... in many odder ways than one would think.

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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Review: Movies for Toddlers

There's a few movies and such that we've added to the playlist for The Boy as his tastes have evolved over the course of the past year. The Boy no longer watches the Elmo movies (except, occasionally, for the "Silly Songs" program) or the Thomas the Tank Engine movies. I'm not sad about the Thomas phase being over; although I like Hero of the Rails, I've found the Thomas television show to be quite objectionable. Most of the behavior that the other engines show is quite reprehensible and mean, even though they get their comeuppance at the end and learn their lessons.

"The Emperor's New Groove," is a Disney flick from 2000 that stars the voices of John Goodman and David Spade as Pascha (the good-hearted, faithful villager) and Emperor Kuzco (the immature deposed Emperor that learns his lesson through the course of the movie). Special notice comes out to Patrick Warburton as Krunk and Eartha Kitt at Yzma, the bad guys. It's a buddy flick: they hate each other at the beginning, the Emperor learns his lesson, and they grow to be great friends.

This movie is a diamond in the rough. Nobody knows what it is, and fewer people have seen it. It generated one straight-to-video sequel starring Krunk. It's exceptionally funny in every aspect. The jokes are funny for kids and for adults, and there is a lot of good, old-fashioned slapstick humor. I heartily recommend it.

There are no scary bits to speak of; any potentially scary bits are made funny immediately. There is no language issue anywhere in the movie. There is cartoon violence: people getting bonked on the head (a lot) and the emperor getting "poisoned" by the stuff that turns him into a llama. Nobody actually gets hurt, though.

The Boy's other favorite is "Monsters, Inc." We all should know this 2001 movie, starring John Goodman "Sulley" and Billy Crystal "Mike Wazowski," although The Boy has their names confused pretty well. He calls it "Mikey Bikey." This is a another buddy movie (are we noticing a trend?), with the two monsters scaring kids to get them to scream, because screams provide electricity to Monstropolis. Randall, the bad guy monster, hatches an evil plot around the girl, Boo; kids are, after all, toxic to monsters.

There are quite a few scary bits in this, particularly in the very beginning where the monster tries to scare a child in a "simulation." There are also some other suspenseful bits. There is no language issue (Pixar!) and a little bit of cartoon violence. Not much, though, and it mostly consists of Mike Wazowski doing funny things to hurt himself.

Under normal circumstances, I don't think I would have exposed The Boy to these movies until he was a little bit older. But, of course, he's not operating under normal circumstances. He loves the slapstick humor, of course, and I think he understands some of the jokes. He does have advanced language skills. They are fun movies with interesting soundtracks and great dialogue. The voice acting is pretty amazing, and the animation is wonderful. Highly recommended for all ages.

Dance the Dance

So, the boys are playing Legos at the train table right now. It's quite fascinating to watch. The big one is building a little structure, mixing the colors of Legos and naming each color as he adds the piece. The pieces are all the same size; he picked each one of the same size out from the larger whole and put them in a bucket to separate them from the general population.

The little one has the bucket. He's taking the pieces out one at a time. Some of them he chews for a bit, some he doesn't. All of the pieces get thrown onto the floor in roughly the same direction. He watches them hit the floor, bounce, and clatter, then he moves on to the next piece.

Periodically, The Boy goes to the pile on the floor to replenish his supply. Younger Bro occasionally goes for the structure, but the The Boy moves it around the table, telling him to stop, and he eventually does.

Very interesting. Younger Bro has now moved on to new toys. Gotta chase him...

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